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How To Be Relaxer-Free
By Jacqueline Tarrant, BDO Hair Expert
(BlackDoctor.org) -- The ethnic beauty world is still buzzing since the release of Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair." The documentary delves into a concept well known in the African American community, and explores the lengths black women will go to get long, straightened locks, from a $1,000 weave on a teacher’s salary to schoolgirls having their hair chemically relaxed.
There are some in the Black community who believe that relaxing your hair is the equivalent to selling out or wishing to be white, where others see it as a measure to promote manageability. Either way, the debate continues. Last year, sales of home relaxers totaled $45.6 million.
All About The Relaxer
The relaxer was discovered by an African American named Garrett Augustus Morgan. Morgan was born the seventh of eleven children to former slaves. He is best known for his invention of the automatic traffic signal and gas mask. But it was around 1910 that he stumbled upon what would become his major contribution to the hair care products industry, and what would pave the way for several other entrepreneurs and manufacturers over the next hundred years.
While working in a sewing machine repair shop and attempting to invent a new lubricating liquid for the machine needle, it is widely believed that Morgan wiped the liquid off of his hands and onto a wool cloth. Returning the next day, he found the woolly texture of the cloth had “smoothed out." Morgan then set out to find how the liquid chemical had changed the cloth's texture. He experimented on an Airedale dog, known for their curly textured hair, and the effect was successfully duplicated.
Morgan then tried his lubricating liquid invention on himself, called it a “hair refining cream”, and thus patented the first chemical hair straightener. Morgan founded a personal grooming products company which included hair dying ointments, curved-tooth pressing combs, shampoo, hair pressing gloss, and the one that started it all: the “G.A. Morgan's Hair Refiner Cream” (advertised to “Positively Straighten Hair in 15 Minutes”).
The Relaxer Today
Many years after Morgan's invention, there have been many social, cultural, and political discussions and debates about relaxing or not relaxing hair. As a stylist, of course, I believe the bigger issue is that, if performed incorrectly, relaxing can cause hair breakage, hair thinning, lack of hair growth, scalp irritation, scalp damage, and hair loss. These are just some of the complaints from many who experience problems due to the misuse of chemical hair relaxers.
In fact, the FDA lists hair straighteners and hair dyes among its top consumer complaint areas. Because of the fragile nature of highly textured hair, the use of any chemical process should always be done with caution, patience. Following a manufacturer’s directions is always a must.
For many of the reasons listed above, many of my clients do change their minds about relaxing their hair, and one of the most frequently asked questions I get is how to successfully transition from a relaxer to natural hair without extreme breakage?
Option 1 - The Slow Transition
• Step 1 - Grow It Out
• Step 2 – Trim Gradually
• Step 3 - Condition. Condition. Condition
• Step 4 - Set & Go
• Option 2 - Cut It All Off
Cutting off all of the relaxed hair and starting fresh is one of the fastest ways to go from relaxed hair to natural hair.
• Option 3 - Temporarily Wear Other Hairstyles
Style your hair in cornrows, braids, extensions or wigs until the natural hair grows out. This will allow you to look stylish while simultaneously transitioning from relaxed hair to your natural hair. The key here is make sure braids or extensions are not too tight, and condition regularly.
Above All, Remember It's A Journey
During the process, you may find yourself doing any or all of the options above, just be patient and don’t give up. Also, consult with a professional who can ease you through your journey. It also may help you to know that I’ve personally gone through the relaxer-to-natural process. I would never go back. I am glad that I did it.
Jacqueline Tarrant is a beauty expert, consultant, columnist, founder & CEO of Style Infinity Products & The Hair Trauma Center in downtown Chicago. Jacqueline Tarrant has pioneered effective methods to help men & women re-grow hair with her multi-layered approach to hair loss, known as Quadra-Follicle Stimulation. Jacqueline’s expertise on hair care and hair health is expressed monthly in national columns that reach millions through various publications. With numerous Style & Beauty appearances nationwide on Good Morning America, NBC, CBS, & the Fox Network; Jacqueline’s credits also extend throughout print in such publications as Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Essence & the Wall Street Journal.
Her reputation as a renowned Educator, Trainer and Platform Artist has taken her throughout Canada, Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.